Blog Post

The Russian pipeline waltz

This is an eventful period for EU-Russia gas relations. Six months ago Russian President Vladimir Putin surprised the energy world by dismissing the long-prepared South Stream project in favour of Turkish Stream. Like South Stream, Turkish Stream is intended to deliver 63 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas per year through the Black Sea to Turkey and Europe by completely bypassing Ukraine from 2019. 

By: and Date: June 18, 2015 Topic: Energy & Climate

This is an eventful period for EU-Russia gas relations. Six months ago Russian President Vladimir Putin surprised the energy world by dismissing the long-prepared South Stream project in favour of Turkish Stream. Like South Stream, Turkish Stream is intended to deliver 63 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas per year through the Black Sea to Turkey and Europe by completely bypassing Ukraine from 2019.

Yesterday, during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2015, Gazprom unexpectedly signed a set of Memorandums of Intent with the European gas companies E.ON, Shell and OMV. These plan for the construction of two additional gas pipeline strings along the Nord Stream pipeline system that connects Russia and Germany through the Baltic Sea. This project would double the current capacity of Nord Stream from 55 bcm per year to 110 bcm per year.

Both Turkish Stream and an expanded Nord Stream indicate that Russia does not intend to abandon its position in the European market (by for example shifting attention to Asia).

As illustrated in the figure below, current EU-Russia gas trade is based on three key axes: the Nord Stream pipeline, the Yamal-Europe pipeline through Belarus and the pipeline system crossing Ukraine. Of these three routes, only the Ukrainian gas transportation system is not controlled by Gazprom.

EU-Russia existing gas connections

Source: Bruegel based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2015, IEA Gas Trade Flows in Europe, Nord Stream website.

Gazprom has asserted several times that it will cut off gas transits through Ukraine by the end of the decade. The current alternative routes (Nord Stream + Belarus), however, only present a capacity of 86.5 bcm per year. To maintain the current level of Russia’s exports (119 bcm in 2014) at least 35 bcm of additional pipeline capacity would be needed.

In fact, current capacities are not being fully exploited due to disputes over the access regime to the OPAL pipeline in Germany which connects Nord Stream to European markets. Gazprom would like to make full use of the pipeline, but the European Commission, the German regulator and Gazprom have not yet reached a decision on the conditions for an exception from the EU’s Third Energy Package that would allow Gazprom to control more than 50% of the capacities.

Either Turkish Stream (with its 49 bcm per year devoted to the European market) or an expansion of Nord Stream (55 bcm per year) alone wouldallow Russia to circumvent Ukraine. Both lines together would result in significant over-capacity. So there seems to be a trade-off between Turkish Stream and an expanded Nord Stream.

So, how should the most recent evolutions of the Russian waltz of pipelines be interpreted? There are three possible scenarios:

i) Turkish Stream for Turkey only & Nord Stream for the EU. In this scenario Russia would target the construction of the first string of Turkish Stream to divert the 14 bcm per year currently supplied to Turkey via the Trans-Balkan pipeline (crossing Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria) by 2016, as recently agreed in Ankara. This would allow Russia to capitalize on the massive investments already made in the “Russian Southern Corridor” and to make use of the South Stream pipes already delivered at the Varna harbor and of the pipe-laying ships already placed in the Black Sea. Considering the regulatory and financial barriers to the development of new infrastructure to deliver Turkish Stream gas to EU destination markets, Russia would abandon its plan to supply the EU market via Turkish Stream and rather invest in the expansion of Nord Stream to cover this market.

ii) Nord Stream expansion as a bargaining chip to advance Turkish Stream. In this scenario Russia would propose the expansion of Nord Stream, in order to have another bargaining chip in the negotiations with Turkey (and Greece), and to quickly advance the full Turkish Stream project and ensure better commercial conditions. This would allow Gazprom to avoid further controversies around the OPAL pipeline and to deliver gas directly to southern European markets. This way Gazprom’s ability to sell gas to southern Europe would not depend on additional north-south pipelines under EU rules, and some price-differentiation between the northern and southern market for Gazprom gas could be maintained.

iii) No pipelines, just politics. In this scenario Russia does not intend to develop either the full Turkish Stream (but at most the first string for the Turkish market) or the expansion of Nord Stream. The proposals are thus intended to create political cleavages within the EU, at a moment when the EU is toughening its stance against Russia due to the Ukraine crisis. They create cleavages between northern and southern EU countries (Germany favoured by Nord Stream; Italy and Greece favoured by Turkish Stream); between the EU and Member States (for example Member states’ actions that counteract the Brussels strategy to diversify away fro m Russia); and within EU countries (by causing the interests of governments and energy companies to diverge). In such a scenario, this waltz of pipelines thus represents a new chapter in Russia’s enduring divide and rule strategy vis-à-vis the EU energy market.


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.

Read article More on this topic
 

Blog Post

COVID-19 and broken Collusion: the oil price collapse is one more warning for Russia

In the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, the sharp collapse in the oil price has received little attention. Brent fell by 30% on 9 March, the largest fall since the 1991 Gulf War. The Russian ruble followed suit and its tumble highlights Russia’s continued dependence on resource extraction. The episode should be taken as a sign of things to come in a world where Russia’s main customers are going green.

By: Niclas Poitiers and Marta Domínguez-Jiménez Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: March 19, 2020
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

European Industrial Policy in times of coronavirus with Thierry Breton

At this livestream event by Bruegel and the FT Brussels Briefing we were joined by Thierry Breton to discuss the the challenges posed to Europe's Industrial Policy by COVID-19. This event is ONLINE ONLY

Speakers: Thierry Breton, Sam Fleming and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: March 19, 2020
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

From Brussels with love? Russia's economic dependence on the EU

Despite the political antagonism, the EU and Russia are not only geographically, but also economically, reliant on each other: European houses are heated using Russian natural gas and Russia is highly dependent on European investment. Therefore, should the EU develop closer political ties with Russia? How much leverage does the EU have when dealing with the Kremlin? This week, Nicholas Barrett is joined by Niclas Poitiers and Marta Domínguez-Jímenez to discuss European foreign direct investment in Russia.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: February 19, 2020
Read article Download PDF More on this topic
 

Policy Contribution

FDI another day: Russian reliance on European investment

Most foreign direct investment into Russia originates in the European Union: European investors own between 55 percent and 75 percent of Russian FDI stock. This points to a Russian dependence on European investment, making the EU paramount for Russian medium-term growth. Even if we consider ‘phantom’ FDI that transits through Europe, the EU remains the primary investor in Russia. Most phantom FDI into Russia is believed to originate from Russia itself and thus is by construction not foreign.

By: Marta Domínguez-Jiménez and Niclas Poitiers Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: February 17, 2020
Read article Download PDF More on this topic More by this author
 

Policy Contribution

The European Union-Russia-China energy triangle

Concern is growing in the European Union that a rapprochement between Russia and China could have negative implications for the EU.

By: Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate Date: December 9, 2019
Read article Download PDF More on this topic
 

Working Paper

How does China fare on the Russian market? Implications for the European Union

China’s economic ties with Russia are deepening. Meanwhile, Europe remains Russia’s largest trading partner, lender and investor. An analysis of China’s ties with Russia, indicate that China seems to have become more of a competitor to the European Union on Russia’s market. Competition over investment and lending is more limited, but the situation could change rapidly with China and Russia giving clear signs of a stronger than ever strategic partnership.

By: Alicia García-Herrero and Jianwei Xu Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: November 18, 2019
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

Russian economy at the crossroads: how to boost long-term growth?

Russia’s convergence to advanced economy income levels has stalled. Long-term growth prospects are still obstructed by sluggish productivity growth, low capital accumulation and shrinking labour inputs. The new government has articulated a set of ambitious policy objectives for the next six years. But are additional reforms necessary to further boost productivity and investments in line with government targets?

Speakers: Marek Dabrowski, Markus Ederer, Elena Flores, Alexander Larionov, Dmitry Polevoy, Niclas Poitiers and Alexey Vedev Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: Kadashevskaya Naberezhnaya, 14, Moscow, Russia, 115035 Date: November 7, 2019
Read article More on this topic
 

Blog Post

China’s growing presence on the Russian market and what it means for the European Union

The European Union’s relationship with Russia is strained, but the two economies are nevertheless highly intertwined. A huge share of Russia’s exports go to the EU, while in the early 2000s, EU countries supplied more than half of Russia’s imports. The EU is also a major investor in, and lender to, Russia.

By: Alicia García-Herrero and Jianwei Xu Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: November 6, 2019
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

A fresh perspective on EU-Turkey relations: still a possibility?

Examining the mutual benefits of a EU-Turkey customs union.

Speakers: Zeynep Bodur Okyay, André Sapir, Sinan Ülgen and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: October 3, 2019
Read article Download PDF More on this topic More by this author
 

External Publication

The impact of the global energy transition on MENA oil and gas producers

Endowed with half of the world's known oil and gas reserves, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is cornerstone of the global energy architecture. This article argues that – together with the pressing need to create jobs opportunities for a large and youthful population – the possibility of the world moving more aggressively towards a low-carbon future should represent a key argument for the implementation of economic reform programmes.

By: Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate Date: August 5, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

Deep Focus: Energy transition in the next EU institutional cycle

Bruegel fellow Simone Tagliapietra speaks to Sean Gibson in this instalment of 'The Sound of Economics', on the matter of the European energy transition and how the EU should proceed in the new institutional cycle.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Energy & Climate Date: July 10, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

Backstage: Ukraine's economic and political outlook

In this episode of ‘The Sound of Economics’, Giuseppe Porcaro hosts Hlib Vyshlinsky, executive director of the Centre for Economic Strategy, and Bruegel fellow Marek Dabrowski to discuss what the new Ukrainian government should do to meet the challenges facing the country’s economy.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: May 31, 2019
Load more posts